Saying Goodbye

We aren’t very good at saying goodbye, or even knowing when it’s time to.  Our family is facing that right now with my Grandmother, and at this very moment critical decisions are being made.  Just a few nights ago she had two strokes, and the night after a seizure.  She is responsive and has made it very clear, both through a living will years ago, and comments in the past few days, that she wants to be allowed to die naturally.

But right now she can breathe on her own, pump blood on her own, but is having difficulty swallowing.  Due to that, the doctors wanted to place a feeding tube to give nutrition and medication, and though she didn’t want to, agreed to it with the promise that it wouldn’t stay long.  After just a few hours, she pulled it out on her own and doesn’t want it back in.  But her children, my mom and her siblings, are having a hard time agreeing to that.  After all, she could regain all needed functions with therapy, or at least have a good shot at it.

But she is exhausted and ready.  Her wishes must be honored.  I can’t help but think that if she could see past the exhaustion and depression that comes with a seizure, she’d want to live more life.  Austin was exhausted, but we didn’t get to take part in the decision for him.  We didn’t even get a chance to say goodbye.  We wouldn’t have said goodbye though, we would have stopped him.  I hope my mom and my aunts and uncles and other family gathered around her can find a way to say goodbye when the choice has been made.

Goodbye’s are awful, but I’ve learned that they’re better than never getting a goodbye.

Painful Days

Doctors gave up on a cast after he removed two

Growing up, Austin and I didn’t get sick much.  But we more than made up for that with injuries.  You name it, we hurt it between us.  One of my parents first challenges with that was when I was burned severely at a young age.  It might have been a sign of things to come, and maybe even prepared them for having two kids who always found a way to get hurt.  Austin started young also, with a fall out of a shopping cart when he was about 2. It ended with emergency surgery to his finger.  Austin always stayed calm though, and the doctors were shocked when they were able to do it with only local anesthesia.  I however, sat in the waiting room crying the whole time!

As we grew, we continued to mount the falls, scrapes, bruises and breaks.  I was training intensely for gymnastics, and Austin played various sports.  We also spent free time playing with our friends on the land around our house, traipsing through woods, and generally making mischief.  I broke the growth plate in my elbow and spent almost a week in the hospital with an infection after surgery.  I sprained each ankle, wrist and knee more times than I can recall.  But I was pretty tough, and kept getting up when I was knocked down.  Austin was even tougher.  He was playing football in the yard when he heard a pop and had intense pain in his knee.  He was only about 8, but by now we all knew how tough he was, and when he cried about his knee day after day, there was no doubt something was wrong.  After pushing doctor after doctor to find the problem, he finally had surgery which gave him a few years of relief.  It turned out that he had more serious lasting knee issues than we realized, eventually in both knees.

A few days after surgery

Just to prove how tough he really was, he decided to fight a strand and barbed wire and lost.  But no worry, he never cried, even as they decided that he must have nerve damage since the damage to his face was so severe.  He wasn’t quite as emotionally tough we learned though, because the few tears that did fall were because he heard Dad might have gone fishing without him.

As a teenager, Austin’s knees had reached the point of needing more surgery, this time on both.  One of mine had also reached it’s limit, and we each had surgery, just days apart from each other in hopes of finding some relief.  That was the most painful time of our lives, as we were also coping with the recent separation of our parents, and our first Christmas away from Mom.  We had a pretty rough holiday, in physical and emotional pain, and unsure of what was ahead.  I was in college and didn’t like leaving him when that break was over.

During the next several years, we faced the family challenges and dealt with the pain, sometimes together.  But Austin was always a private person, so the glimpses into what he really felt didn’t come often.  The knee pain grew (as did mine, I eventually had one more knee surgery plus a few others), and he became more private.

Sometime around 2005, Austin and his girlfriend were hit while he was driving her car.  Their injuries weren’t life threatening, but for a guy with so much joint and general pain trouble, it was bad.  When Austin’s knees went into the steering column and his back took the impact it did, I believe a dark time began.  Soon after, the girlfriend broke his heart, and the the pain continued to grow.  He didn’t find much relief from the emotional or physical.

Austin had a job he loved, in a field he had been going to school for.  He had people around him that loved him.  But the pain was too much.  As the physical pain grew, so did the emotional, and trying to cope with both was too much.  We might never know how deep or real that pain was, and we may never know how we could have helped, because though we did try, he kept it hidden.

I’ll forever have pain over losing him, that can never touch the physical pain I’ve ever felt.  His whole life, Austin could take any pain, which leaves us to wonder even more, how bad it really must have been.